Here’s an explanation of why teacher morale is so important in schools and colleges and how you can use school design for building staff morale. We’ve looked at the studies, condensed the findings and put together some ideas, on your behalf.
Why This Is An Important Issue
We discussed previously, in more depth, why staff morale is so important for student retention and attainment. This blog post is the one in question and looks at a range of studies, from all over the world, which examines the relationship between teacher morale, student performance and the consequent effect on student retention.
One of the driving factors, and commonly a root cause of influence, is the environment teachers are working in. The building itself, individual classrooms and teacher working and break-out areas are all hugely influential on teacher morale.
When teacher morale is so impactful to the students’ educational success, it is vital that you address the issue of morale immediately to make sure it is as high as it can be. A hugely effective way to improve teacher and staff morale is to improve the working environment.
Here are a number of ways you can improve the design of your school to improve teacher morale and staff happiness.
Effective Use Of Space
Firstly, it’s vital that you make the most of the space that you have available. If your student demographic has changed or certain subjects have grown and shrunk, respectively, since your layout was last planned, it may be time for an exercise in space planning.
Conduct an assessment of students present in each classroom at different times and decide whether the space is being used to an optimum level. Is there enough room or too much? Would it be better to be in another room? Does the furniture allow comfortable working? Do the tasks being completed suit this room or another one?
It may be better to alter which classes take place in which rooms, depending on your findings. And this can be done between and within individual subjects.
Secondly, it’s important that the layout of your building is making the best use of your floorspace. It may be that lots of room is being wasted due to corridor layouts and room shapes. There may be dead space which could be utilised with a reconfiguring of internal walls.
Effective Storage Solutions
Storage is another potential area to exploit for improving staff morale. An effective storage strategy has a range of benefits, all of which accumulate towards an improved level of morale. Also, though each factor may be individually small, when experienced together, they can be detrimental to morale when ignored.
Common issues arising from poor storage arrangements are:
- Lack of clear working space for teachers
- Lost time finding resources
- Lost student work
- Delays for students handing in and retrieving work
- Generally untidy environment encouraging unkemptness in other areas
- Mess creating a stifling atmosphere
And storage can be improved to remove all these factors which directly and indirectly impact on teacher morale. Just a handful of options to improve storage are:
- Install dedicated, well designed in class storage units, many of which do not intrude on teaching and working space
- Create dedicated storage rooms for planned use items (books, DVDs, experiment equipment)
- Create storage rooms for archive items (practice exam papers, old coursework examples, records)
- Utilise electronic storage as much as possible
- Use lockers and secure storage units in communal areas of the building
- Share storage space wherever possible
Employing some or all of these storage techniques can help to improve morale by making classrooms tidier and more manageable. It will reduce the likelihood of common stress inducing scenarios like not being able to find marked work or student resources.
Just like it is good teaching practice for unruly or disengaged students, promoting ownership of their space if great for staff morale too. Staff need to feel like the classroom and work area is their own in order to feel comfortable and at ease.
Allow decoration and resource erection by staff in order to make their teaching spaces their own. Notice and whiteboard walls are an easy and effective way of achieving this without causing any damage to the wall itself.
The environment should also be something that staff would want to feel like their own. A simple refresh of decoration and facilities can be a great way of providing the right platform for staff to start working from. A lick of paint isn’t going to cure morale issues overnight, but a clean, sharp and engaging environment is not going to be the straw which breaks the camel’s back like a run-down building might be when morale is low.
Another design related issue which contributes to morale is the ability for staff to interact with each other. The traditional staff room, typically leaning towards relaxation rather than working, is no longer conducive to effective PPA activities. Also, working lunch breaks are increasingly the norm. Communal staff areas need to reflect this.
A combination of working space and breakout facilities are necessary.
Before delving into shared spaces or altering staff room layouts and so on, it’s important that there is at least the option for staff to socialise and work together in communal staff areas. Speaking to teachers, too many of them state that they often go through the whole day only speaking to their students and not to their own peers. This is due to working and eating in their classroom as that is the only available work space.
Providing the facilities to complete work and dine together is a key factor in encouraging school wide staff morale. As much as possible, this should be school wide and not just within individual subject areas, because this promotes a more community-like feel within the staff and brings the school closer together.
Lighting And Temperature Control
On a more basic level, simply designed improvements in lighting and heating can go a long way to making your staff happier and more productive. A room which is the right temperature and well lit (preferably naturally) will leave staff a whole lot more positive.
Upgrades in heating systems and (when applicable) solar shading or increasing natural light sources can help create a working environment which encourages improvements in morale.
Flexibility In Layout And Decoration
Similarly to the first point of discussion in the list, it’s good practice to have classroom designs which are flexible and easy to alter. Teachers will feel less restrained and constricted by their environment if the classroom is easily alterable and adaptive to how they want to teach their pupils.
Utilise lightweight furniture and encourage experimentation in layout from lesson to lesson and task to task. Herman Miller have put together this useful paper on the importance of reactive classroom layouts.
Does Your Building Need Some Form Of Refurb? Find Out Using This
We have put together this short guide which will allow you to canvas staff, teachers and students about your building. It also explains all of the options available to your and how you can achieve budget sign off to improve your surroundings and increase staff morale. Download it now for free.